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Sermon on Jonah 1


Theme:  God’s control is on every part of this creation.

Goal:  to encourage believers to be faithful to the God whose control is everywhere

Need:  we often live like God is not in control.


1.   God’s power is Jonah’s problem.  Preach to the Ninevites.

2.  God’s power is over heaven, earth, and sea.

3.  God’s power is not to be defeated.


        Unless you like smelling like fish vomit, I think it might be smart of fall in line with the powerful plan of God. 

        I don’t mind eating sea food.  I am not particularly fond of the idea of sea food eating me.

        I wonder how many times we unknowingly live the same story as Jonah.  We know God works the world in such away that his plan is accomplished.  We’ve heard the same story time and time again.  But we need to look back at our lives and do some self reflection.  Have we done all that we could do to fall in line with the plan of God.

        The answer is a definite ‘no.’  But unless an storm comes rolling in we don’t stop to reflect on whether we have followed the plan of God with our lives.  Have we been stepping away from a deeper calling?  We are starting this week on a study that will work us through the book of Jonah.  We are going to stop and look at each of the chapters of the book of Jonah.  And as we do so,  we will see that book teaches us some profound truths about ourselves through a guy named Jonah.  He dealt with some of the same issues we deal with today.  And it teaches us more about this God of the universe that we have a relationship with through Jesus Christ. 

        If we come prepared we can learn more about the core of who we are, our motivations, and our calling.  And we can build our relationship with God by understanding even more intimately the power he possesses in the life you are living today.


God’s powerful plan is Jonah’s problem.  The message of Jonah begins.  Its reported to us right away that Jonah receives a word from the Lord.  Jonah 1:1-2 1The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

        Wow called on a mission trip. That’s essentially what we hear God calling Jonah to do. Get up and go.  Preach.  Tell everyone that God expects a different lifestyle than what you are living.

        In a similar way God’s word has come to us and has challenged us.  God’s word has come to us through Jesus Christ.  He already there was telling all his followers that if your life is nothing but easy then you might have to listen again to what sort of things Christ calls you to.  Jesus talked about daring to stare persecution in the face and tell it that Jesus Christ is your savior and Lord.  Jesus Christ tells us to ignore the legalists to dangerously follow his law of love. Jesus says get out of your bubble.  If nothing else the cross we are supposed to be carrying ought to burst us out of the comfortable bubble to teach and preach and serve and love. 

        The students from the SERVE team went out to Hamilton and the theme for their week was “who cares?”   The answer to that question of course is that God cares.  God’s care stretches out to those that we wouldn’t normally think as the ideal believer.  Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. 

We see a flash of that in what God calls Jonah to do.    Remember where it says he is supposed to go?  Nineveh!  Nineveh?  Nineveh!  Of all places that God could possible want Jonah to go preach.  Nineveh?!?!

I guess some of you aren’t quite surprised.  You must have heard this story before.  Well then you might remember that Nineveh is the capital of the nation that has global ambitions.  Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, kind of near where Baghdad would be today.  The capital of the nation that is planning to take over the land of Israel.  This is no friendly territory Jonah is called into.

It might be a little bit like today if you heard the word of the Lord telling you to drop everything and go to Mecca, Saudi Arabia and preach that salvation can be theirs through Jesus Christ alone.  The word of the Lord that comes to Jonah is radical love in action.  It is part of the powerful plan of God.

So God cares.  He cares whether or not you stick with his plan or not.  He cares about it when we choose to ignore the people we would rather not have to deal with.   Whether it’s the people on the streets or greedy rich folks.  Whether high schoolers with their iPod and cell phone or a senior who has trouble making their way around.

        You students from SERVE should recognize this verse as the theme verse from James 5:10-11.  It’s a great reminder for all of us as well.  Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.[1]

God cares about how you live and how you try to fall in line with his powerful plan. 

I don’t think God takes it lightly that his name has been tarnished by pastors claiming it is a good idea to burn the Koran.  What we hear from God’s call to Jonah is that in the plan of God is the call to preach in the dangerous place, not to stir up anger and violence. We are called to interact and win over those who might persecute us with love.  Radical obedience that falls in line with God’s love and power would be to befriend people of different faiths or of no faith, and through your conversations teach them the way of Lord.

But just like we all do at that sort of message, Jonah thought “NO WAY!”  Of all the crazy things that God could say to him, of all the crazy things that could be a part of the infinitely good plan, he wants to preach to the people of Nineveh.  “God.  What are you thinking exactly?”

        So of course Jonah picks up and heads the other direction.  Nineveh is over near the Persia gulf.  Joppa is on the Mediterranean Sea and Tarshish is in Spain.  You can’t go any further the opposite direction.  Jonah is getting out of the area and trying to find his out of the powerful plan of God.

        Verse 3. 3But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.


        Jonah!  You can’t get yourself out of the powerful plan of God.  When he says Go, he means Go. 

        In the first part of the chapter we hear that God’s power  is Jonah’s problem.  Well, in the next section we find out something more about God.  We discover along with Jonah and all the sailors that God’s power is over heaven, earth, and sea.

        The next section of chapter one involves lots of throwing.  It starts off with God throwing wind at the ship that Jonah is on.  4Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea (literally the word for sent is the word throw), and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  God throws the storm at this ship. 

        The sailors don’t know what to do so they begin throwing back.  Verse 5 5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.

        And in the throes of this storm and the feverish effort by the sailors to save the ship, Jonah is passed out deep in the hull of the ship.  He is sawing logs.  Exhausted.  So people say he was so worried about fleeing from God that he passes out in a wearisome sleep.  I tend to think that it shows instead how relieved he is.  He is actually at peace because he has decidedly rejected the call from God.  And now that he has accepted this new path in his life he can just rest easy and slip away into obscurity in tarshish. 

        But God throws the storm at the ship and the sailors throw all their goods back to the ocean trying to save themselves. 

        The chaos of the storm is so great that when the captain of the ship finally gets a minute to check on his passenger down in the hold of the ship he finds him sleeping. 

        He can’t believe it.  How can you sleep through this?  He says, call on your god.  Our gods aren’t answering, maybe yours will do something about this. 

        Then when all else fails they decide to use their lots, kind of like dice to decide who has caused this mess. 

        God uses the casting of lots to show that its Jonah that has endangered the lives of everyone on the ship.  When it falls on Jonah everyone on the ship looks to him for an explanation.  Look at the five questions, like a machine gun, bam, bam bam bam bam right in a row questions directed at Jonah.  Verse 8 says,  8So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”


        Jonah’s explanation is brilliant for the moment and tells us so much about God.  He says in verse 9. 9He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

        Where does God live?  Heaven.  Up above it all.  His domain is up there among everything that is so far beyond us.  Right.  Jonah knows that.  And what portions of the world did he make.  What’s it say?  Sea and land.  What?  What parts of the creation does God have complete control over?  What was it?  Over the land and the sea.  Where is Nineveh, on the land.  Jonah knows that God has control over all that happens on the land.  But yet he doesn’t obey.  Where does Jonah flee to?  To a boat in the middle of the sea.  The sea that God has complete control over.

        Have you ever had it where what you believe and what you do don’t line up.  That’s the Jonah mistake.  God rules from heaven.  He has power over land and sea.  He has the power over what would happen with Jonah in Nineveh.  He has power over what happens in our lives.  He has the power to take us to the places that we do not want to go with the people we do not want to help for reasons we do not understand, but he is there and has the power over it.  That’s the power of God.  That’s our God who become who he did not want to become. Human.  To save the people who he turn away.  Sinners like us.  To bring about his plan that cannot be denied.  Salvation full and free by the blood of Jesus Christ.

        And just to remind us one more time.  God’s power is often our fear.  Nineveh.  God’s power is over all creation.  God’s power will not be held back. 

        God’s power will not be held back.  Not by you or me.  Not by Jonah, we see.  God threw the storm at the ship.  The sailors threw the cargo back at God.  But since that didn’t work, Jonah says, throw me instead.  Throw me back at the wind and the sea.  Throw me out. 

        Perhaps this is a rebellious Jonah’s last effort to thwart the power of God to send him to Nineveh.  Throw me into the stormy sea.  Then this nightmare will be over.  You will have calm seas.  For me.  I will die and sleep with the fish.

        But here.  The last line of this chapter is the strong reminder:  God’s plan is in place.  His power is over all the world.  He will not be denied.  17But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

One Gulp and now Jonah is on his way, back to Nineveh.

        Don’t wait for your big fish.  Fall in line.  Serve.  Love.  Preach.  Follow the plan of God to make this world full of people who trust and serve Jesus Christ. 

This is God’s will from his word.  And all God’s people say:



[1]Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (Jas 5:10-11). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.

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